Thursday, November 17, 2016

Another Lie of Offence

One aspect about taking offence that I alluded to below is its relationship with forgiveness and with patience. Oh how we seethe when someone offends us! Oh how it becomes the sole focus of our ire to the exclusion of all else! When we take offence we narrow our horizons. In so doing we narrow our minds and, crucially, our hearts.

We do so because we go into defensive mode - that's only natural when something we hold dear is threatened. The trouble is that Love bids us do the opposite. To love someone truly means to keep oneself open to them, irrespective of who they are, what they do, or their opinions. Love doesn't bear a record of wrongs; it is patient and kind. Of course, Love rejoices in the truth, but when we are offended, our perception of what is true or real becomes pinpoint small.

The true challenge, when we are offended, is to be patient and forgive. Patience, here, means longsuffering - being prepared to stick with our offender, refusing to identify them with what is offensive. Boy, does it take some doing! But it is necessary, especially when we pray "forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those that trespass against us". If God were to identify us with our offences, then who may abide it?

However, if we live life like that, then we are in danger of this misidentification taking us over. It is another pathway to Hell for this reason. There is a sense in which we become what we do. Our Lord makes this point when he say that those who show mercy shall receive it, those who forgive shall be forgive. "Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again" Our doing does influence our being, and it will be God's task to extricate the person He created from their free-actions if that is indeed possible. Our free-will does inhibit God because God's love for us inhibits God.

Of course, like Salvation, forgiveness is a process. It has to be for us little time-bound beings. Soem can forgive quickly, others slowly, depending on the magnitude of the offence. That trouble is that, in most cases, being offended by what someone says is just not as big a deal as we think. This is another aspect of the Lie of Offence. Offence blows itself out of proportion.

That's not to say that offensive words are not a serious issue. The one who says, "all gays go to Hell" is saying something unsupported by Christian doctrine, and is displaying his own hatred for a myriad of human personalities, making the inhomogeneous homogeneous. Yet, such a one is the more to be pitied for this. He is the one losing out on the warmth of God's Love from within, and preventing himself from receiving God's Love from without. Sadly, his belief in the value of this offensive statement may cause him to fall over into homophobic action. For the object of this man's hatred, his words will sting, rankle, offend, It will hurt, yet Christ bids us turn the other cheek, to stop the hatred there, put a cap on it and allow it to propagate no further. Living life despite having offensive language thrown at you is a life to which the Christian is called.

However, as I said below, we still need to listen to those words we deem offensive, and to check ourselves that we are not in a state of sin. Not all things we believe to be offensive are truly offensive. If we have a series of one-night-stands, then we are, by definition, a fornicator. There's no two ways around that. If we force people to give us money, or overcharge them, then we are guilty of extortion. We cannot allow ourselves to hear words of criticism and immediately put them in the box marked "offensive waste" and thus try and be all self-righteous. The reality is that all those who prefer fornication to God, or money to God, or anything whatsoever else to God, will be given exactly what they want - an Eternity of it, and that is Hell! For those who repent and turn to God, there will be an Eternity of that, and that is Heaven.

We Christians are charged with the task of bringing a taste of Heaven to Earth. People will take offence at our sayings because they will go against what the world has instilled in them. We have to be prepared to be seen as offensive even when we're not. Our Lord's name even offends people these days. The key thing is to ensure that we narrow our focus to all that is true, and open our scope to allow a flow of God's Love into the world. We should not seek to offend deliberately and thus push people away by our words. Both St Benedict and St Francis agree that a life that is lived in the Love of God will draw more people to God's light, than much wordy preaching. We can only admonish those whom we know to be willing to be admonished because we have a good relationship with them.

Perhaps it's time to put the megaphones down, and seek to live what we believe. Let us think about how God's word challenges us, warns us, convicts us, offends us, and seek to submit ourselves to His judgment so that His will be done, and all people may feel the warmth of His light on them by what we do for them.

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